At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


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Love God by Loving the Least of These

Matthew 25: 40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Broken people are easy to ignore. The outcasts, the maimed, the poor, the unwanted, if we aren’t one of them, we don’t really understand them. If you’ve not been confined to a wheelchair, if you don’t know someone who is, can you really relate to what someone who is faces on a day-to-day basis? If you’ve not been in poverty, it’s hard to know just how gut-wrenching the daily life of an impoverished family is. It’s so easy to ignore families who aren’t just like ours. The mother who dresses poorly, eyes always downcast, acting as if she is afraid someone will speak to her–she probably is afraid. Do you love her enough to find out? If we love God, we have to love His people, and not just our own family and friends, not just those we love to catch up with from time to time but the broken ones, the impoverished ones, the ones maimed and damaged by life and by others. Even those caught up in the logical consequences of their own poor decision-making who now have repented and want to live for Christ–to fully live for Him–how often we turn such a one away. We’ll put the elderly on our prayer list. We’ll call the sick (maybe). We’ll take a meal if someone has a new baby or a death in the family. But what of those who are continuously suffering, what of them? What do we do for the abused? For the lonely older lady who did all she could when she could but now has no one, have we forgotten her? What about the one suffering through an unwanted divorce? What about those whose lives have been destroyed by economic disasters? Oh, we’ll organize drives and go paint houses for the elderly, we’ll get the guys together to fix a single Mom’s car or we’ll gather and fill shoe boxes at Christmas for the poor children across the sea so they know that somebody cares. We do all of those things and we feel really good about ourselves when we do. But, once the project is over it’s back to business as normal and those poor folks get ignored for the rest of the year. We’ll speak to them in church (usually in a hurry so we don’t feel guilty about ignoring them while we’re also making sure there’s no time to really connect with them or for them to put any demands on us–we’re just so busy, you know?). If we get around to it (or if we’re really pressed to) we’ll try to raise some money to help them take care of their needs, we’ll say a quick prayer for them (quickly before we forget we promised), we’ll even pick them up for church if no one else will. That’s usually as far as it goes. We see them as a project to do rather than people to love.

Most Christians act like they think that abuse, poverty, unending health challenges are diseases that if we get too close we might catch. We don’t want to get involved, we don’t want demands made on us. We certainly don’t want our own comfort zone somehow compromised by having to think about what someone else is dealing with daily. You’d think we believe in karma rather than the grace of God (maybe they did something to somehow deserve this, brought it on themselves….). Yeah. And maybe it’s just what God has for them and maybe you are the one He’s chosen to put in their path to do something about it.

Funny but I can’t see Jesus hiding from such things, can you? He was always right there, right in the midst of those who were wounded, hurting, maimed and poor. Healing the broken, serving the outcasts, loving the unlovable. Doing His Father’s will. We read the stories and we think how great He was for doing such things yet, when we get the chance to do the same, we balk and run the other way.

It’s time for a change. We need to ‘fess up that we’ve been wrong. We need to get into the midst of the pain, come along side the abused, the sick, the broken, the lonely and the poor and help them. Ask them how they are and really mean it. Hear their stories. Help them. Serve them. Day in, day out, until we’ve actually made a difference in their lives. Until their pain is ours and our joy is theirs. It’s time to do so because Jesus has told us to do so. He’s told us to care. So let’s get on our knees and ask Him to show us those He has for us to serve and then, let’s get busy serving.

Are you ready?


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Lepers in the Kingdom of God

2 Corinthians 1: 3, 4, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

There are times when God’s people face extraordinary difficulties. Though we know He is there, it can feel as if we will be broken from the weight of our burdens. We falter, we fail and, often, we complain, but God comes along side of us in our pain. Grace alone upholds us. Sadly, though, ofttimes when God’s children face such circumstances, other Christ-followers react in shock and turn from us, ignoring the very burdens they themselves could make lighter through some act of compassion. At those times, added to our burden of pain, fear, poverty, illness, abandonment, abuse or a thousand other difficulties, we now have to bear the burden of human aloneness. Though Christians are told in Holy Scripture that we are to “weep with those who weep” just as much as we “rejoice with those who rejoice”, it is a rare thing to find those who will. It is as if we who suffer are lepers in the Kingdom of God.

A common approach to ministering to those in distress, especially distress that has a less-than-physical cause, is to lay the blame for a fellow Christian’s pain fully back on them. Like Job’s questionable friends, we accuse, castigate and condemn without ever stopping to think that we might be wrong in our accusations. Or, if we are perhaps a bit more loving in our approach, we tell the suffering one that “time will help you to get over it” or that “things really aren’t as bad as they seem” (ignoring the fact that they very well may be worse than we can hope to imagine): if they’ve been abused by their spouse, we tell them that the other person “didn’t mean it”, or that they’ve “misunderstood”, or “if only you’d been better, done better, prayed more, tried harder or had more faith, this wouldn’t have happened”; if they’ve suffered great losses of the heart and of the mind, we tell them “the sun will still come up tomorrow” or “it could be worse, you know”, or, in some other sorry way, mitigate their pain, their sorrow, their loss.

I, like most, have known quite a few difficulties in my life. Over the last few years, the difficulties multiplied tremendously and one part of my life, and then another, and another, gave way. And, though in some ways, rebuilding has begun, in others, life is uncertain and continues to be full of pain.  God in His graciousness, has, over the last couple of years, seen fit to give me a very few select travelers who not only understand but in some way share an intimate knowledge of my burdens for they’ve oft suffered in many of the same ways and, more importantly, who know the value of trusting God in difficulties and taking what we’ve learned and becoming comforters. Many times we’ve been able to comfort each other. For these precious few I daily thank God.

But besides these precious ones, when I’ve tried to share my pain with fellow Christians or, sadly even with leaders within the church, when I’ve dared to ask for prayers or guidance, when I’ve tried to explain my sorrows or sought to unburden myself (at those times when I can carry the burdens no longer), I’ve known the additional pain of being stared at in doubt, misunderstanding, even anger and confusion. All before the one I’d prayerfully turned to blanches and changes the subject, makes accusations, explains away my pain, or, more commonly, silently ignores the fact that I ever turned to them to begin with. As it is and has been with me so it is with many who suffer. It seems doubly so for those who have been abused.

Are we really called by God to cast sorrow upon original sorrow by castigating and accusing those who are already wounded? Do we honor our Lord by ignoring their suffering, by changing the subject, denigrating their pain, refusing to listen? Do we bestow grace by walking away? Do we show Christ-likeness by refusing to try to understand simply because we don’t want to? Are we so callous as to allow our misunderstanding to cause us to fail to seek the truth and, through our failing, perhaps even become a pawn in the hand of Satan, an instrument used by him to pour salt into a fellow Christian’s open, bleeding, wounds? All of this in the Name of our precious Lord? Sadly, from my experiences and those of many I have known, these responses are often the norm.

To say we believe God is one thing. To live as if we believe is quite another. Let us lean on our Lord in our pain,partake of His succor and, from our experiences, learn to become comforters to others so that, when a suffering abused one turns to us, we may respond to those who weep and mourn in a way that shows we live what we say we believe.  When confronted by life’s wounded, pray we remember that the Lord has taught us, in Matthew 25: 40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”